NEWS

The response from Mitsotakis’s headquarters on Aravantinou

Last Monday, at the regular meeting of the political analysis group on Rigillis St – the New Democracy party headquarters – discussion focused on evaluating political developments and the likelihood of early elections. Former deputy Dora Bakoyianni gave the uncertainty of the political scene as the reason for her delay in deciding whether to run for election as mayor of Athens. Bakoyianni gave the impression that she did not rule out sudden developments which could result in a sudden poll. This surprised the other members of the group, who do not consider early elections likely. Bakoyianni was more specific with her predictions at a dinner she gave for the press on Wednesday. There, she explained that she would delay making her decision as long as the political scene remained unclear. And she predicted that there was «just a slight possibility that there might be early elections in June.» She did not say on what she based this opinion, but limited herself to describing the chaos that rules PASOK deputies to such an extent that honorary ND Chairman Constantinos Mitsotakis advised a group of ruling party deputies who were criticizing Simitis to calm down. New circumstances Numerous observers recalled and re-evaluated Bakoyianni’s predictions in light of the new circumstances created by the attempt to smear Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos. And quite a few of them linked her predictions with Mitsotakis’s reaction. In contrast with the other politicians, Mitsotakis avoided any reference to the attempt at destabilization which the attack obviously represented. Instead he said: «The response to a journalist’s reportage cannot be to demonize and insult him, but it needs a substantive response because that is what democracy demands.» His colleagues hastily brushed off questions arising from this comment, saying that his response was general in character, and that the president had given a substantive answer to the question. But the difference in Mitsotakis’s reaction was more than apparent, as was his indirect criticism of the way the political leadership had responded to the attack. New Democracy’s position On Thursday evening – when developments were still unclear and rumors were circulating that Stephanopoulos was planning to resign – people connected to Mitsotakis’s headquarters on Aravantinou Street expressed the hope that there would be new elections and that their leader would be elected president. From the outset, Rigillis adopted the view that there was something serious behind the ugly attack. That same evening, when government spokesman Christos Protopappas contacted ND’s press officer Theodoris Roussopoulos to find out what the opposition’s intentions were, the latter advised his counterpart of the party’s strong reaction. He explained that ND leader Costas Karamanlis had already telephoned the president to assure him that the opposition would use all its influence to protect the president and the presidency. Roussopoulos also told Protopappas that if the attack were to continue, Karamanlis would telephone the prime minister, who was in Brussels, in order to coordinate their responses and make it clear to the public that something much more serious than a mudslinging attack on the president was afoot. At ND headquarters, Karamanlis met with Roussopoulos and Vangelis Meimarakis. Other party officials joined them later and the leader maintained telephone contact with the former shadow finance minister, Giorgos Souflias, who was not in Athens. The meeting examined all the possible scenarios of the cause and aim of the attack on the Greek president. The prevailing view was that some extra-parliamentary group was out to attack politicians in general, and that this called for a tough response. The crisis in PASOK Roussopoulos’s office issued a statement that the real target of the attack was democratic stability. Leading ND officials commented: «Of course New Democracy wants elections, but without harming democracy and not in television jungle conditions.» They noted that the attack coincided with the start of Greek-Turkish dialogue and while the intensive Clerides-Denktash talk on Cyprus were in progress. The ND leadership considers that the whole affair will rally the government and PASOK in the medium term, but that this is a period of political instability and the crisis in PASOK will deepen. Others, who reject the notion of conspiracy, do not rule out the possibility that the attack was instigated by political and economic interests which see that PASOK cannot survive in its present form, and are attempting to spark sudden developments that will help bring about a change of leadership and promote Foreign Minister George Papandreou. Whatever the cause, ND officials believe the best way to manage the situation is by speaking out clearly and aggressively, persisting with the correct tactic of highlighting everyday problems and promoting new members. There was also pressure from the USA for arrests. This was frequently accompanied by hints as to the identity of certain individuals. The Greek authorities are trying to thin out this confusing crowd of suspects, so they can give a clear response as to whether individuals are truly suspects and what evidence exists to justify suspicion.